NRL Round 6: “You’ve just got to love footy!”, says Matt O’Hanlon, and he’s right!

 

For general use

 

 

There is no better line than Matt O’Hanlon’s classic to describe my feeling about the unfolding 2023 NRL season. What a start to the minor round we’ve had, exemplified perfectly by last weekend’s Round 5! A draw, big scores, a golden point game, a comeback from 0-20 to win – and away from home at that, an upset or two – “it’s all happening”, to quote another sporting icon, William Morris Lawry.

 

Let’s recap. The Roosters continued their path towards top form at the expense of the Eels who, at 1-4, are in serious trouble and already in jeopardy of missing the finals. The Panthers have their mojo well and truly back if their 7-try second half is anything to go by, while the Raiders won’t make the top half this year. The Storm know how to defend and find ways to win, even if their attack is mercurial while the Rabbitohs are just plain hot and cold, more often the latter than the former. How about that pulsating draw between the Sea Eagles and the Knights? Some exhilarating attack by both sides, even if the defence wasn’t anything to write home about. Perhaps the Knights have more to offer than we thought – but only perhaps at this stage.

 

The Dragons finally found some form at the expense of the seriously depleted Dolphins who may be about to find out about the incessant demands of the season’s weekly grind. But a win is a win for the Dragons who, at this point, are in the top eight! Are the Broncos really that good, or are the Tigers that bad? I’m still not that sure about the former, although the form of Reece Walsh makes the Broncos look very good. But I am convinced that the Tigers are that bad; stinking, in fact! The Sharks will be furious with themselves after letting a 20-0 lead slip away in the rain at Shark Park against the gutsy Warriors who are winning lots of friends for their wholehearted efforts thus far. What a win from 0-20, away from home against a probable top four side! That says something about character. To cap it all off, the Bulldogs never gave in against the more fancied Cowboys to snatch a last-minute equaliser before winning in golden point! A bit of the old G&D there, too. The Cowboys are not looking anywhere near the force they presented last year and need to respond very soon or they, too, will find themselves chasing the pack as the year progresses.

 

I think I tipped only 4 winners but who cares when there’s such uncertainty and a degree of mayhem in the competition? More, please!

 

Round 6:

There’s no let up in the possibility of great games this weekend. Tonight the Storm, almost back to full strength with the return of Hughes, take on the ominous Roosters who’ll be missing the inspirational Tedesco. But it’s not too bad when you can throw World Cup best player Joey Manu into his place! Melbourne’s strength has been its defence and they’ll need to be at it for 80 minutes against the strike-from-anywhere Chooks. I’m just not sure that Melbourne, even with the scheming Munster, can score enough points to get ahead at the end. I’ll go with the Roosters.

 

The Good Friday games start with the dogged Dogs facing the underwhelming Rabbitohs. After a come-from-behind win that should not have happened last weekend, the Bulldogs will be quietly confident about their chances in this one. For Souths, Cameron Murray, Campbell Graham and Thomas Burgess need a few more troops to support their strong lead. Latrell Mitchell looked almost disinterested last time out – or is he carrying an injury that hasn’t been disclosed? It’s now or never for the Rabbitohs – if they go 2-4, it’s a long way to the top four by September. I don’t know why, but I’ll pick them anyway – I can’t believe they’re that ordinary. South Sydney.

 

The night game sees the faltering Dolphins visiting the Cowboys in Townsville. Injuries and suspension have wreaked havoc among the Redcliffe-based team and the news is no better for them this week. How they need Kaufusi back! The Cowboys are at the other end of that continuum with both Drinkwater and Cotter returning to add speed, skill and grit to the northerners. Only one outcome here – Cowboys!

 

On Saturday evening, Penrith are at home to the Sea Eagles. The Panthers were simply unstoppable in the second half last weekend and will be looking to maintain that form against a Manly outfit that score points well enough but struggle to stop leaking them. Even without Fisher-Harris and Martin, I still think that Penrith will have too much power, mobility, speed and co-ordination to be troubled by an honest but workmanlike Manly. Panthers.

 

At night, the top of the table Broncos will be at Lang Park again, this time against the struggling Raiders. Everything points to a clear Broncos win – form, personnel, teamwork, confidence, and so on. After their deplorable second half performance last week, it’s hard to see the Raiders mounting anything more than a token challenge. Premierships are not won in March or April, but a strong ladder position is so Brisbane have every reason to unleash their sparkling attack again to shore up competition points as well as a points differential buffer. Broncos.

 

The Titans and Dragons are even stevens on the ladder at the moment and this is the type of game both need to win to establish their credentials. Perhaps their places on the fringe of the top eight flatters them both. The Titans lose Brimson and Foran, two of their best attacking weapons; the Dragons have the luxury of an unchanged squad (although Su’A must be doubtful). But the men from Kogarah did what they had to last week when they disposed of a rival they needed to and should have beaten – and looked good doing it. You can’t do much more than that. It’s hard to see the Titans scoring enough to keep up so I’ll go with the Dragons.

 

The Warriors are currently second (and deservedly so at 4-1), the Knights eleventh, which suggests that the NZ-based boys should be in for another win. The Warriors have been a bit of a revelation with their consistency, never-give-up approach and admirable flair. A consistent Shaun Johnson is driving them around the park very well. But credit to the Knights, too, for their doggedness after coming back for a draw against the Sea Eagles last weekend. This might develop into a battle of attrition, in which case I’ll go with the Warriors – they deserve favouritism based on what we’ve seen in the first five rounds.

 

The best thing so far this year for the Wests Tigers has been that they’ve featured regularly on free to air television; it’s also the worst thing that’s happened to them because their parlous state has been ruthlessly exposed for all to see. They don’t even look like they can win a game. The Eels have hardly been electric, to be fair, but at least they’ve genuinely contended against every opponent this year – all or most of them finalist material. ‘King’ Gutho has been outstanding! If only they had a few more of him. They’ll be happy to see Shaun Lane back but lose Paulo to suspension. This will be the weekend that Parramatta get things back on track. Eels.

 

The Sharks have the bye.

 

So my winners are the Roosters, Rabbitohs, Cowboys, Panthers, Broncos, Dragons, Warriors and Eels.

 

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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A loyal Queenslander, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. Enjoys travel, coffee and cake, reading, and has been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. One of Footy Almanac's online editors who enjoys the occasional editing opportunity to assist aspiring writers.

Comments

  1. Matt O’HANLON says

    Thank you Ian and I must say the season start has been incredible and I have – like everyone else enjoyed the footy. In actual fact “I love it!” The football has been tremendous – so good in fact that my tipping is atrocious! Redcliffe’s start has been tremendous but I think depth will hurt them in the long run. But Bennett has again shown that a simple game plan and limited mistakes is still the way to win especially when the players buy in. There have just been so many good games this year that you just gotta love footy!

  2. Ian Hauser says

    MOH, Saturday morning and I’m smiling already after just 3 games of the round. The Storm just kept coming – amazing. They made the Chooks look sick. The Rabbitohs found their mojo big time, thanks largely to their pack (even though Mitchell will get the headlines). And the Dolphins – just incredible. As you say, a simple game plan and try to restrict the errors. And they have flair as well. You’ve just gotta love it!

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